A significant amount of traffic and billing systems contracts for cable networks are coming up for grabs this year. And like any athlete in a contract year, providers of those systems have been working overtime to improve the tools they can sell to clients.
“There is an enormous potential turnover of contract awards in this area,” says WideOrbit founder and CEO Eric Mathewson. Mathewson estimates that as much as “one-third of the money” in the traffic and billing business for cable nets is in play over the next six months.
In the battle for this business, one key area has been improved tools for managing the multiplatform delivery of content and ads for TV Everywhere deals, notes John Sorensen, president of Broadway Systems. “Advertisers want to make combined buys, and channels need tools to make combined guarantees and combined stewardship on the deal,” Sorensen says.
As networks make more content available on more platforms, cable networks and multichannel providers are also looking for solutions to enhance those digital ads, either with secondscreen applications or targeted ads, notes John Larrabee, VP of sales for the Americas at Pilat Media. “A lot of the work we do with AT&T has to do with targeting,” Larrabee says.
The interest in better ad solutions for multiplatform delivery and for targeting helped prompt a recent deal between DirecTV and FreeWheel. As part of that agreement, the multichannel satellite provider will deploy FreeWheel’s digital video ad insertion for TV Everywhere content in late 2013 and Direc-TV will take an equity stake in the company. Turner and Disney’s Steamboat Ventures already have stakes in FreeWheel.
Freewheel co-CEO Jon Heller says delivery of ads and content across multiple platforms and devices makes things more complex, creating demand for solutions that can handle all the different pieces. “The whole ecosystem has to work together to make it work smoothly,” he says.
In addition to the DirecTV deal, several other companies have been investing to expand their offerings. SintecMedia recently acquired StorerTV and Argo Systems to expand its North American presence, where it already works with NBCUniversal, ABC and Televisa, notes Tom Hultquist, SintecMedia director, sales engineering.
Meanwhile, WideOrbit has been hiring more people in the cable network area to help support the company’s WO Network product, which has inked contracts with three major new clients in the last year, Mathewson notes.
Solutions: The Ties That Bind
The increased complexity of multiplatform delivery has also highlighted the importance of solutions that can automatically track rights, residuals and other issues for linear TV, VOD and digital media. “They need a systemwide understanding of the rights and restrictions they have on different platforms,” says Hultquist.
This complexity also makes it increasingly important that traffic, billing and sales systems be closely tied together. “Networks are frustrated with the disconnect in offerings,” with separate traffic and sales systems that make it difficult to effectively “optimize their revenue and inventory,” says Broadway’s Sorensen. The company has long offered a single solution for all those areas.
“Integration [between different systems] has been a major problem and something that cable networks have been very frustrated with,” adds Mathewson. WideOrbit began offering a single solution WO Network about 18 months ago for cable networks.
Better integration is also producing changes at some of the ad delivery services. Yangaroo recently launched its Reporter automated traffic management system that automatically sends reports back to the advertiser, notes Karen Dealy, president of U.S. advertising operations at the company. Looking ahead, Yangaroo is talking to cable networks about even deeper integration with existing traffic and billing systems.
Many of the vendors are also upgrading their analytics tools. Harris Broadcast is working on a new version of its NetGain analytics software, which has been adopted by a number of major clients including Univision and Sinclair, says Scott Criley, director, media and workflow, Harris Broadcast.
Harris’ new 2.4.1 version of NetGain that will be available in April at the NAB show will include better visualization of data, advanced predictive analytic capabilities and an interface with the open source “R” analytics platform that will provide clients with a number of advanced features, Criley says.
Harris is also making it easier for sales executives to access the system on mobile devices and is planning to bring in social media analytics.
“People are looking for better tools for data mining techniques and the ability to look into the future with advanced predictive analytics techniques,” Criley says.
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